Monday, June 25, 2012

Golden Communication Rule

Top ten lists of anything are almost impossible to pass up without taking a peek. But, it's the kind of information that sits in your mind a minute, then gets up and takes a walk. One of the most ubiquitous top tenners is the list for good communication with "Listen" at the the top. Makes sense, everyone gets the rule but good listeners are as rare as belly dancers in Alaska. Mostly, people press their lips tight and wait for their chance to speak. That's not listening; it's attempting to appear polite. Other favorites on the list are the business about a message needing a sender and a receiver, awareness of body language, the misuse of qualifiers and seven others that slip my  mind.

Rules help some but what one really needs is a sense of how to treat people.  Most of the bad communications I've witnessed share a common problem. One or both of the speakers tries to diminish the other.  If the other person is less, you're more.  If the other person is made small, you're bigger.  Doesn't matter the content of the conversation or whether it's a disagreement or a chat, diminishing tactics are often at play.

How about the guy who has to add-on to whatever you say, can never let your statement stand on its own.  Or the friend or relative who is always teaching and informing.  And the miserly one who listens but gives no response. And, my least favorite, the gentle, patient and superior one who tolerates others.

For some people, diminishing tactics are consistently present in relationships. But don't forget the other side of the equation. The diminished one feels resentment and resentment is the rust of relationships. So, my number one communication rule is Don't Diminish The Other Guy. Without this, the other nine rules don't mean much.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How ya Doing?

Do your words express how you feel? "Love" and "hate" are big-feeling words but they don't work so well for more subtle or complex feelings, and, overstated, they lose impact. What exactly does "I'm mad" mean? Are you miffed, peeved, annoyed, irritated, irked, sore, disappointed, vexed, indignant, fuming, irate, livid, furious or enraged? There are many shades of anger and many words to identify them. If "mad" or "angry" are your only words, you may come across as an angry person. Your kid doesn't pick up his toys and you say, "Don't make me angry." Is your feeling always so strong that it should be labeled "anger?"  Maybe you're disappointed. Or try telling your child you're "peeved" and see if that catches his attention.  If your partner looks at another man or woman, you may say you're "furious" but the more accurate word might be"indignant."  Words are powerful when they carry exact meanings.  In a sense, the more limited your choice of words, the more limited is your ability to understand and convey your feelings. Just the other day, a friend described a mutual acquaintance as "always on simmer." It so accurately stated why one does not relax around this person. What about a co-worker whom you've labeled "aggressive" or a "bitch."  Even as you say it, it may feel too critical and perhaps mean-spirited.  Maybe she has "spunk."  And the guy you say is unfeeling?  Maybe he has "grit."  Maybe the words, "hot babe" don't really fit that woman you're attracted to who has "grace" or "allure."

One of the things people recall about falling in love is a surge of creativity.  Feelings so new and strong that "I love you" was insufficient. Thus the bad (sometimes good) poetry. Words can still lead you back to those emotions.  And the next time you need to say "sorry" to someone, try "I feel diminished by my actions," or "I've let myself down as well as you" ... phrases that say "sorry" with obvious depth and may help you avoid the tart, "Sorry doesn't do it."  Words change things.  Use their power in your personal life.